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Red Hands aiming to reign over Royals

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

TYRONE'S season hangs in the balance, and Saturday's crucial All-Ireland Qualifier clash with Meath could make or break them.
The Red Hands are in last chance saloon, and a must-win tie at Pairc Tailteann will provide all the drama and tension of sudden death championship football.
Handicapped by injuries and suspension, the reigning Ulster champions will approach the challenge with caution, and while they are expected to get over this first round contest, this is a potential banana skin.
Defeat to Monaghan in the Ulster Championship scuppered the bid to land a third successive provincial title for the first time, and now the pressure is on to remain in the All-Ireland race via the back door route.
Meath suffered a shock 0-16 to 0-14 defeat by Longford in the Leinster Championship on Sunday so will be under big pressure from their own supporters to deliver a performance, but they will feel that, on their own home ground in Navan, they are capable of springing a shock.
Former Tyrone star Joe McMahon is concerned by the absentee list and by the tricky route ahead that faces the Red Hands
“It's a difficult road to go. With the Qualifiers and the Super 8s, there's quite a bit of football to be played, and Mickey is going to have to draw on all the resources of his panel, and that's something that he'll be looking at," said McMahon.
“You're looking at the loss of Mark Bradley, Petey Harte and Lee Brennan. They are big players for Tyrone, and we know how Tyrone, up front, want to get those boys on the ball.
“Mickey will have to draw on the bench and it will be an opportunity for other boys to come in, and we'll see what their worth is, and hopefully they can progress and gain that experience they need."
The double All-Ireland winner has faith in Tyrone's defensive system, but admits he has misgivings over their ability to convert scoring opportunities.
“The strength of Tyrone is the defence, stopping the scores getting up on the board, but equally at the other end they need to be getting scores themselves.
“If you look at Donegal (v Derry), they conceded 16, but they scored 2-16. They have been racking up big scores.
“From Tyrone's point of view, they were missing scores in the game (v Monaghan) at key moments, and hopefully the lads will learn from that."
As they prepare for a critical contest in Navan, the Tyrone players need to put the disappointment of the Monaghan defeat out of their heads, and concentrate on fixing what went wrong at Healy Park.
“The big thing is the initial disappointment. You put so much thought and resources into your first round, especially when you were coming up against the might of Monaghan.
“You always knew it was going to be a big task, and at the start, they were playing fast football, doing everything that Mickey would like to have seen.
“And then as the game progressed, towards the end of the half, things started to slow up a bit and it played into Monaghan's hands essentially.
“And coming to the 'championship quarter' they were able to get the key men on the ball and get the vital scores."
McMahon urged the players to call on the spirit of 2008, when the Red Hands also suffered an Ulster SFC first round defeat to Down, but re-grouped to embark on an unforgettable journey via the Qualifiers which ended in a third All-Ireland title.
He recalled the self-belief among the players, along with their star quality, which saw them conquer all before them to claim the Sam Maguire Cup.
“A massive part of it was the belief, knowing that we had the panel of players that we did, and that we could come back again," he said.
“When you looked through the team and the quality of players that were there, you felt that you certainly had that bit of offer."
And he revealed that an inspirational talk by legendary Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody inspired the Tyrone players,
“We had a meeting down in Carton House, and we invited in Brian Cody. The fact that he felt that his Kilkenny team were almost modelling themselves on Tyrone, as he alluded to, was a big plus for us, a big positive, and we drew a lot of inspiration from that, and the fact that other teams were looking at how we played.
“That was something that kick-started again our season, and we were lucky in a sense of the draw that we got in the back door, and it just built up that bit of momentum."
Meanwhile, former Tyrone defender Dermot Carlin believes manager Mickey Harte will be forced to alter his tactics because of the injury situation.
He does not have like-for-like replacements for ace finisher Lee Brennan or playmaker Mark Bradley, and may have to adapt a more direct strategy.
“I'm sure there's lots of players in the Tyrone squad with that, the way the game is now, anybody can play anywhere. I'm sure Mickey has lots of things in mind, but his hand may be pushed," said Carlin.
“But we have plenty of good footballers in Tyrone, so I'm sure there's no problems on that front at all."
Carlin, currently part of the Tyrone U20 management team, feels that, despite the absentees, Tyrone are strong enough to win at Pairc Tailteann and to go on a run through the Qualifiers and Super 8s.
“The squad is going to be important going through the Qualifiers, but they have the strength in depth, but they'll have to work on, it, build momentum and take it step by step.
“There's enough quality footballers, the Tyrone squad is full of quality footballers, and I think there's enough there. Younger lads now will get an opportunity.
“And there's the likes of Richie Donnelly. Ronan O'Neill was disappointed the last day, but he'll be back and he'll get more game time in there, so he'll get another opportunity.
“There's lots of other lads in there, there's Harry Loughran and Ronan McHugh. There's lots of lads will get opportunities, and the back door is the perfect stage for those lads to get those opportunities."
Carlin expects Tyrone to progress, but knows manager Harte will not be looking any further than the tricky clash with the Royals.
“Mickey will not be looking at Super 8s, he's looking at the first round of the Qualifiers, taking it one step at a time and see where it takes them."
Colm Cavanagh and Tiernan McCann, who were clearly off the pace in the Ulster SFC defeat to Monaghan, have been getting valuable game time with their clubs, while in-house games at Garvaghey will help them regain the required sharpness for inter-county action.
“I know Tiernan played a couple of league games with ourselves (Killyclogher). Obviously he is off the pace a little bit. He's probably still fit enough, but not at the level where he wants to be, but he'll work on it and keep pushing on, as will the other lads.
“I know myself, having been out injured manys a time, that it's the games that really bring the sharpness back, and there's no better test than an in-house match when you're playing for Tyrone."

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